Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines for Women
Breast cancer screening is crucial for detecting cancer early

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer globally. Studies have reported that 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 1 in 39 will die. 

Breast cancer screening is crucial for detecting cancer early and getting treatment in the initial stages, which improves the odds of recovery. 

Here are breast cancer screening guidelines for women by risk level.

What are the best screening methods for detecting breast cancer?

  • Mammogram: Mammograms are the best screening method for detecting breast cancer. Mammography is a type of medical imaging technique that uses low-dose X-rays to examine the inside of the breasts for detecting cancer.
  • MRI: Breast MRI images are captured using magnetic and radio waves. Because a breast MRI may show abnormal findings (false positive results) even when they are normal in women at a high risk of breast cancer, it is not used in women who are at average risk. 
  • Clinical examination: During a clinical examination, a doctor or nurse palpates the breast with their hands or fingers to check for any swelling or lumps.
  • Self-exam: Regularly examining your own breasts allows you to become familiar with your breasts and notice any lumps, pain, or any changes in size.

Breast cancer screening guidelines for women at average risk

Guidelines for breast cancer screening in women at average risk are as follows:

  • Seek the opinion of a doctor before going for screening tests. Talk to your doctor about the proper screening tests for you.
  • It is recommended to undergo a clinical exam of the breasts every 3 years from the age of 20, and it is recommended to undergo a clinical exam of the breast every year from the age of 40.
  • Screening tests are recommended in healthy women who are expected to live for another 10 years.

Breast cancer screening guidelines for women at intermediate risk

Guidelines for breast cancer screening in women at intermediate risk are as follows:

  • Starting at age 20, you should start to perform regular self-exams to become familiar with your breasts and be aware of any changes.
  • From the age of 25, a clinical breast examination should be done every 6 months.
  • It is recommended to get a routine mammogram done every year.
  • If you have dense breasts, your doctor may recommend an ultrasound, a contrast mammogram, or an MRI to screen for breast cancer.

Breast cancer screening guidelines for women at high risk of breast cancer

Guidelines for breast cancer screening in women at high risk are as follows:

  • From the age of 20, a clinical breast examination should be done every 6 months.
  • Mammograms or 3D tomosynthesis are recommended to be done every year. Start before 10 years of youngest age when a blood relative is diagnosed with cancer. It is advised not to start before age 25.
  • It is recommended to undergo an MRI every year and an alternate mammogram every 6 months.
  • If you receive radiation treatments, you can have an MRI, tomosynthesis, and mammogram all at once or every 6 months. Breast cancer screenings can be done 8 years after the last radiation treatment.

QUESTION

A lump in the breast is almost always cancer. See Answer

Breast cancer screening guidelines for breast cancer screening after reconstruction

Breast reconstruction is done to reshape breasts that have been surgically removed (mastectomy or lumpectomy) as a part of cancer treatment. Some use silicone or saline implants, and some use flap tissue from the body. 

Breast cancer screenings can be performed after reconstruction depending on the type of surgery you have undergone:

  • If you have undergone breast-conserving surgery, you may need to go for routine mammograms of the treated breast.
  • If you have had a bilateral mastectomy, you do not need to undergo routine mammograms.
  • If mastectomy is performed on only one breast, it is essential to get a mammogram of the untreated breast because women with breast cancer on one side are more likely to develop cancer on the other.
  • If you have healthy breasts or had undergone a lumpectomy, it is recommended to get routine annual mammograms.
  • Always stay in touch with your plastic surgeon to evaluate the condition of your breast implants.

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Medically Reviewed on 10/20/2022
References
Image Source: iStock image

https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/screening-tests-and-early-detection/american-cancer-society-recommendations-for-the-early-detection-of-breast-cancer.html.

https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/types/breast/screening-guidelines